Although there are ancient stories about horses, it is believed that they came from the south in the early 1700s. Those who who first saw horses called them “elk dog” (po’no’komita) because they were the size of an elk and could move things like dogs. Life changed forever after horses came for our people.
They were used for hunting and warfare, and could carry heavier loads farther and faster. Ownership of horses was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Po’no’komita is still important in Siksika life for ceremonies and recreation. Pokaiks.
Niitsitapi had great respect for animals and believed that they had sacred powers that were given to them by the Creator. Many stories were told about animals that taught values and traditions.
Animals provided more than just food, tools and clothing, they were a source of cleverness, wisdom and strength. Sometimes animal elements were worn for good luck and success.
Although Niitsitapi preferred buffalo meat, they could still rely on other animals
for food. They used antelope, deer and elk hides for dresses, suits and moccasins. Porcupine quills, animal teeth, bone, claws and tails were used for decoration. Headdresses and ornaments were made from feathers.
Other parts of the animals were made into tools, utensils, containers and objects for everyday life.
Animals have provided inspiration and the foundation for much of Siksika ceremonial and cultural life.
Before the horse came, dogs. The dogs carried loads on their back or were trained to draw a "travois". The travois was formed by two long poles whose front tips converged for attachment to the dogs' shoulders. Midway down the poles, a frame was attached that was either in ladder form or a heap with netting and thongs. To this a 60 or more pound load was attached. The travois was also used to carry firewood; relieving the woman of this job.
Dogs were named according to its appearance or deeds done by its master, such as Red-spot, Feather-lance-carrier, and Took-away-his-shield. We also trained our dogs for bear baiting and flushing smaller animals out of hiding.